The State Museum of Modern Art in Thessaloniki, possessing the legendary collection of George Costakis (1913-1990) which was received in 2000, is opening a new page in its history.

Gustav Klutsis, Dynamic City, 1923

The Museum holds one of the most complete collections of Russian avant-garde art outside Russia itself. The aim of the new exhibition is to show this outstanding collection through the prism of the personality of George Costakis, one of the greatest collectors of our time, who acquired these works in the highly challenging environment of the pre-perestroika USSR, often saving them from otherwise inevitable destruction.

The breath-taking collection which Costakis assembled in the Soviet Union in the second half of the last century embraces Russian and Soviet art of the 1900s-1940s, including all stages of the formation and development of the Russian avant-garde with all its diverse styles, genres and techniques. In 1977, a part of the collection was donated to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, while the remaining works left the USSR together with their owner, who settled in Greece. Each of the two parts of the divided collection offers a vivid picture of the evolution of the Russian avant-garde.

The works now held by the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki include: a small but representative collection of the paintings and graphics of the founder of Suprematism, Kazimir Malevich; creations by the pioneers of Constructivism, Vladimir Tatlin, Alexander Rodchenko and Gustav Klutsis; more than 200 works by the outstanding cubo-futurist and constructivist, Lyubov Popova; a broad selection of works by Ivan Klyun; artistic productions by artists of the School of Organic Culture (led by Mikhail Matyushin and the Ender family) and by the founder and theoretician of analytical art, Pavel Filonov; and programme works and archival materials of Solomon Nikritin, Alexander Drevin, Nadezhda Udaltsova, Olga Rozanova, El Lissitzky and Pavel Mansurov; as well as a collection of “agit porcelain” and industrial design work. In addition to this unique collection of fine art, the Museum holds the document archive of George Costakis. Such a broad range of art works under one roof with relevant archive documents enable in-depth study of the phenomenon of the Russian avant-garde as a whole and its various manifestations. The new exhibition presents the Museum’s collection as a complete whole for the first time.

In 2017 a development committee was set up at the Thessaloniki Museum, headed by Kristina Krasnyanskaya, founder of the Heritage International Foundation. The committee has drawn up a development strategy for the Museum, which will be officially launched on June 28 to coincide with the opening of the exhibition at Thessaloniki. Costakis Collection. Restart.

The director of the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki is Maria Tsantsanoglou. The exhibition curators are Natalia Avtonomova and Alla Lukanova. The exhibition was designed by Kirill Ass and Nadia Korbut. and the exhibition catalogue is the work of Dmitry Mordvintsev (ABS Design).

Ahead of the exhibition opening, Kristina Krasnyanskaya spoke of plans for Museum’s future: “The new strategy reinforces the role of the State Museum of Modern Art in Thessaloniki as the largest centre of the Russian avant-garde outside Russia itself. The Museum, as the owner of the George Costakis archive, is destined to be the principle European platform for the study of the Russian avant-garde and to preserve the memory of a great 20th century art collector. The study, description, preservation and popularization of this unique archive is the key task of the Museum, and we will now be able to carry it out thanks to the strengthening of the Museum team and the use of new approaches in our work.”

The renewed exhibition and the educational programmes, which the Museum will now offer, will realize the potential of the collection to a greater extent than ever before, making Thessaloniki the home of the best museum of modern art in Greece.

The director of the Museum, Maria Tsantsanoglou, commented: “The State Museum of Modern Art is pleased to be offering a new approach to curating and museum management, and also to exhibition design, as part of our relaunch of the Costakis collection. George Costakis was an outstanding collector who gathered masterpieces of a unique period in the history of art and saved many of them from destruction. The new exhibition will present the main periods of the Russian avant-garde, its key directions, schools and individual representatives. The relaunched collection will also become part of a new international association – the Metropolitan Organization of Museums of Visual Arts (MOMus). This opens up new opportunities for scientific research, and for exhibition and educational programmes. I would like to thank all of our colleagues in Greece and Russia, through whose efforts Thessaloniki will now be an international centre for the study of the Russian avant-garde, welcoming both specialists and the general public.”

Andrey Cheglakov’s AVC Charity Foundation for the Support and Implementation of Cultural Programmes is acting as general partner of the project. The AVC Charity Foundation was established in 2008 with the principal mission of supporting contemporary art, helping young talent and disseminating cultural knowledge in Russia and abroad.